[War's] glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families ... It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war to our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.
-William Tecumseh Sherman
On March 19, 2003, Pres. George W. Bush declared war against Iraq and the US attacked that country. Six weeks later and exactly five years ago today, Bush landed a fighter jet onboard an aircraft carrier, far from any dangers of real battle, and declared "Mission Accomplished." He appeared almost giddy from the excitement of his most excellent adventure.
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
-- George W. Bush
Today, on that anniversary, Lt. Col. (Air Force Ret.) Charlie Brown appeared at a townhall meeting for veterans accompanied by former Army Capt. and Sen. Max Cleland. Both Charlie Brown and Max Cleland served in Vietnam; indeed, that's where Cleland had both legs and his right arm blown off by a grenade.
This morning, they had a more sober assessment of our foreign policy, the use of our military and our responsibilities to veterans. Here's what Sen. Cleland had to say:
"We need to send somebody to Washington who knows the difference between right and wrong. We need to send somebody to Washington who has actually heard and felt the sound of battle, somebody who has felt the bullets flying past them... who knows what it's like to be shot at. Something you learn after that is that war is not to be prosecuted for anything less than the vital national interest. It's not something you do willy-nilly... war costs the life and limb of people, the best we have, and it must be well considered before it's entered into."
Of course, most of us realize that Pres. Bush has a slightly different take on war. Just two months ago, with over 4,000 dead and nearly 30,000 wounded, in a conference call with our troops in Iraq, Bush made the following statement:
"It must be exciting for you... in some ways romantic."
And yet after five long years, a recent Pew Research poll tells us that a mere 28% of Americans even know that approximately 4,000 of our troops have been killed in Iraq. Even fewer know about the shabby treatment that our veterans have been receiving from the federal government. Once again, here's what Max Cleland had to say:
We are so quick to go to war and so slow to take care of those who won the battle.
And here's Charlie Brown, talking about the debt we owe to those who have served our country:
This mission is never accomplished; it's ongoing. It's about accountability.
What is wrong with our country that we are not taking care of our veterans? Any number of bills, whether it's the new GI Bill, the increase in medical benefits, are being defeated... why are we not keeping our promise to the troops?
What has happened to the American dream? All of us who thought if we defended our country, we thought our country would take care of us. What has happened to our country?
Patriotism is meaningful to those who serve. We took an oath to serve; we took an oath to get results. And that's what we expect from our leaders. It's time to hold our elected leaders responsible to do their job, hold them responsible to get some results. We did that in the military. We should expect nothing less from our leaders.
On this five-year anniversary of Mission Accomplished, these are questions that all Americans should be asking. Something tells me if we send more real patriots like Charlie Brown to Washington this November, we'll start getting the answers to some of those questions.
Online Organizing Director
California Democratic Party